Distracted driving is a widespread issue in North Carolina, and phone use is one of the largest factors. However, some ways of using a handheld phone are riskier than others. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety just released a study comparing observational survey data from 2014 and 2018. It found that while distracted driving rates have not drastically changed, the level of distraction is getting worse.

The observational surveys focused on drivers in four Northern Virginia communities as they approached or stopped at red lights. Drivers were 57 percent more likely to use their phones for activities besides talking such as texting and sending emails. These are more dangerous than holding and talking on a phone because they take a driver’s eyes completely off the road.

Controlling the phone increases one’s risk for a fatal car crash by 66 percent, according to recent research. The IIHS has estimated that more than 800 fatal crashes occur every year in this country because of drivers using their phones for reasons other than talking. It also found in the observational surveys that secondary behavior like drinking coffee or talking to children in the car can be distracting.

Distracted driving accounts for between 8 and 10 percent of all car crash fatalities. The percentage may be higher since drivers involved in accidents could possibly lie to the police.

For this and other reasons, it can be difficult to determine liability in a car accident. A crash victim who has proof that the at-fault driver was distracted, however, can retain a lawyer for assistance. The lawyer’s network of investigators could obtain a copy of the police report and phone records. The victim can have their lawyer speak for them at the negotiation table or, as a last resort, in court. A successful claim can cover medical expenses, lost wages, vehicle damage and more.